Eating to Lose
The line was out the door—it seemed like whenever Jade put a new coffee on the counter, another two people in business casual would enter the shop. Men and women stared at their phones, only looking up to wonder what was taking so long.
This was just a normal business day in a downtown Minneapolis coffee shop, but it was not going to be an early morning Jade would forget.
Jade churned out beverages as fast as she could, and her coworkers hauled crates of milk to stock up for the rest of the rush. Not wanting to miss a beat despite the frustrating interruption, she whipped around on one heel and started a purposeful walk to the back room to restock one of the prepped ingredients.
But things didn’t go as planned.
One of Jade’s coworkers had left a crate on the floor behind her, something Jade didn’t notice in her rush. By the time Jade realized her obstacle, she was already in the air.
They say no matter the weight of something, whether it’s a penny or a piano, it will be subject to gravity’s laws in the same way—it will go down at the same speed as anything else. But Jade felt like superman, just for a moment. Her time in the air felt slow, almost graceful.
When Jade woke up, she was far from the coffee shop. It was a blur. A doctor told her he couldn’t even get a needle between two of the jammed discs in her spine to give it the steroids it needed to heal. The numbness and pain in her hands, the doctor explained, was due to two other spinal discs near her neck pressing into some of her nerves.
Every day for the next few weeks, Jade spent all but one hour in bed. As she lied there, propped up by a pillow, she sank further into darkness. The pain from her injury drained her of hope.
With an injury as severe as Jade’s, weekly doctor visits were necessary, and although Jade wished she could, she wasn’t working because she couldn’t. After a few weeks of recovery, Jade tried to go back to work, but the damage from her fall was too hard on her body. As hardworking as she was, she could no longer keep up with the fast pace of the mornings, and she lost her job.
Faced with no other choice, Jade filed for disability. When she received her approval, she was sent a check for $879. She stared at it, struck by the reality—this was what she had for the month. But Jade isn’t exactly one to give up. So she didn’t.
Her pain became more tolerable as the years went by, but not enough to get back to work as many hours as she needed to make ends meet. She couldn’t go back to a job with a paycheck, but it didn’t stop her from moving forward. It was time to fix her spinal injury as best as she could.
During one of her many medical visits, her doctor sighed and said the only way for Jade to get out of her stagnant recovery from her pain was to lose weight. Jade felt a wave of panic. She hadn’t eaten more than one meal a day for a year. In part, it was all she could afford, but she also thought that was the way to be thin.
The doctor referred her to a geriatric specialist. Jade visited the clinic and waited for the new doctor to come in. When the doctor sat down, he asked her, “What does your diet look like now?”
“I skip breakfast and I often don’t have time for lunch,” Jade told him. “So I usually don’t eat until dinner.”
The doctor took a sharp inhale. “No wonder you’re not losing any more weight.”
His prescription for her was the opposite of what Jade had ever imagined: she needed to eat more.
Jade’s thoughts raced. Her budget, tight as it was, did not allow much for food. Jade also knew she’d need to eat fresh foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, which she knew she couldn’t afford. How was she going to stretch her limited income beyond the reach it already had?
She looked for support online, including food shelves she could visit near her home in Minneapolis. The food shelf resources were helpful for Jade, but she needed more fresh produce to maintain a lifestyle healthy enough to lose weight and soften some of her spinal pain. Jade researched online and through her sister, who worked in hunger relief, she found produce distributions. Produce distributions, along with the food help she’s sought and received, have changed her life. Jade lost 105 pounds this past year. A back injury cannot hold Jade back.
Jade and many of her neighbors stood in line along many tables with beautiful and colorful fruits and vegetables, especially vibrant in the early morning sun. Jade saw a familiarity with the line, a memory now eight years behind her, but this line was different: men, women and children didn’t stare at their phones when waiting.